Pac-Man 99 on Switch
When it comes to portable experiences, nothing quite beats the Nintendo Switch. With its array of interesting offerings, like AAA releases such as Monster Hunter Rise to the more relaxing surroundings of Story of Seasons, there is much to play and enjoy on the portable powerhouse. It would not be a surprise, then, to have a game like Pac-Man 99 crash onto the scene.
A battle royale take on the classic game, Bandai Namco and developer Arika are hopping on the recent trend of reinventing old games with new mechanics and twists. And thank god they did, for Pac-Man 99 provides a freshness to the already legendary formula of the classic that I did not know I needed. 41 years after the first appearance of the yellow fellow, and there is a new reason to fall in love again.
At its core, Pac-Man 99 is about all about the highs and the lows, culminating in an addictive cycle of “just one more game” in order to best your previous results. The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has had the pleasure of experiencing Pac-Man in his many different iterations over the years.
You are still controlling Pac-Man, going about trying to consume as many pellets as possible while avoiding the ghosts. However, what is different is that 98 other players are doing the exact same thing. Furthermore, you can affect other players in a variety of ways.
By aiming with the right stick, you can target specific opponents or defend yourself. With each ghost eaten, you will be sending a spectral Pac-Man to your target’s screen. Should they have the unfortunate luck to run into said spectres, their Pac-Man will slow down.
One can imagine the mayhem that can occur if your screen is just full of these spectral obstacles. It gives the ghosts a huge advantage in eliminating the player. Add in some new pickups that can multiply the number of ghosts further, and you better hope that your target gets eliminated soon. Otherwise, they could be swallowing plenty of ghosts to send your way.
It is this constant push and pull that powers the fun and intensity in Pac-Man 99. Although this is probably enough for the pick-up-and-play nature of the game, Arika has added further layers to the experience that enhances the competitiveness even more.
Unfortunately, what the development team has failed to do is properly deliver the message to players. There are plenty of mechanics in the game that requires trial-and-error to figure out. In a sense, the lack of proper tutorials will either turn players away, or separate the wheat from the chaff once players have mastered the intricacies of Pac-Man 99.
Besides giving you the ability to target opponents, the face buttons on the Nintendo Switch lets players choose the options of Stronger, Random, Speed, and Knockout. This will affect how consumed ghosts will attack the other players. For example, picking the Stronger option will cause more damage to your opponent than usual. The downside is the ghosts’ window of vulnerability when picking up power pellets is way shorter.
Together with the chaotic nature of Pac-Man 99, and things can easily descend into madness. There is no doubt those that are able to keep a cool head and make the most of these mechanics will rise to the top. You are probably going to suffer in your first 10 or 20 matches in Pac-Man 99. Slowly but surely, however, the entire Pac-Man 99 formula will start clicking into place.
You will likely approach every game in Pac-Man 99 with a different strategy. Do you go on the offensive, picking up every pellet to get a permanent and useful speed boost, or bide your time hiding in a corner while the battlefield evens itself out? Grabbing a bunch of pellets will also cause a fruit pickup to spawn, and grabbing that respawns all the other pickups available. With each game comes new learning opportunities. More importantly, it gives you a chance at winning the entire game.
The Pac-Man 99 experience is made even better with its quick pacing. Matches rarely last beyond five to eight minutes, and players can easily jump back in after a loss or a win. The chase for the glory of the win never quite subsides in Pac-Man 99.
If you are looking for an offline alternative to the battle royale mode in Pac-Man 99, Arika has also included the likes of Score Attack, CPU Battle, and Time Attack. The bad news is those modes are locked behind a $15 paywall. With the core experience still being free in Pac-Man 99, these single-player modes are not exactly a huge attraction. Unless you are hankering for some offline practice or the cosmetic content like themes, you are better off sticking to the main headliner.
That is a good thing, however, considering how awesome the core mode is in Pac-Man 99. Who knew the classic formula of Pac-Man could be reinvented in such a way? Despite the steep learning curve and the hubbub about single-player paywalls, the pure enjoyment of every new Pac-Man 99 game stands tall above all. Whether you are itching for one short session or a marathon of close calls and satisfactory victory, this battle royale cannot come recommended enough.